Newspaper article International New York Times

Purge Grows in Turkey despite Calls for Restraint ; Police Officers Are Fired En Masse after Extensive Arrests of Military Leaders

Newspaper article International New York Times

Purge Grows in Turkey despite Calls for Restraint ; Police Officers Are Fired En Masse after Extensive Arrests of Military Leaders

Article excerpt

The Interior Ministry fired nearly 9,000 police officers on Monday, officials said, after the arrests of 6,000 military personnel and suspensions of nearly 3,000 judges.

The Turkish authorities moved to widen their purge of perceived opponents on Monday by removing thousands of police officers from their posts, part of the crackdown that followed a failed military coup that was aimed at toppling the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Interior Ministry fired nearly 9,000 police officers on Monday, Turkish officials said. That followed the arrests of 6,000 military personnel and 103 generals and admirals, and the suspensions of nearly 3,000 judges over the weekend.

Also on Monday, Mr. Erdogan extended an order for fighter jets to patrol the airspace over Istanbul and Ankara, the capital, and he banned military helicopters from taking off in Istanbul.

The magnitude of the purges has raised concerns among Turkey's Western allies that Mr. Erdogan is abandoning the rule of law and using the coup attempt as a pretext to cleanse the country's institutions of his enemies. In Brussels on Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry and the European Union's top diplomat, Federica Mogherini, urged Turkey -- a member of NATO and a candidate for membership in the European Union -- to show restraint.

"Obviously, NATO also has a requirement with respect to democracy, and NATO will indeed measure very carefully what is happening," Mr. Kerry said. "And my hope is that Turkey is going to move in ways that do respect what they have said to me many times is the bedrock of their country."

Ms. Mogherini said that "we need to respect, have Turkey respect, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms," and that any reintroduction of the death penalty -- as some Erdogan supporters have urged -- would be a nonstarter in talks about Turkey's eventually joining the 28-nation bloc.

Mr. Erdogan pointed the finger at his former-ally-turned-rival Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who has been in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 and who is known to have a vast following in the police and judiciary.

Western diplomats said on Monday that Turkey's response to the coup attempt suggested that the government had prepared lists of those they believed to be linked to Mr. Gulen's followers, before the unrest.

A senior Turkish official said that members of the Gulen movement in the military had been under investigation for some time, and that the group had acted out of a sense of emergency when they realized that they might face prosecution.

"There was a list of people who were suspected of conspiring to stage a coup," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, in line with government protocol. "And they did attempt a coup even though many people, including myself, treated the claims as a conspiracy theory at the time. …

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